After HF29 got us going with Tomas Plekanec, we continue with the Habs rock 'em sock 'em fourth liner, fan favourite Steve Bégin.
The tits – The quintessential "run through a brick wall for the team" guy. Hits hard, hits often, gets the crowd buzzing and never takes a shift off. Unlike a lot of NHL fourth liners, Bégin is a decent skater and isn't a liability in either zone (in his first season in Montreal, he had 10 goals and was +9 in 76 games). Will fight when needed. A francophone who speaks his mind, he helps distract some of the sharks in the media and leads by example; Robert at Eyes on the Prize calls him "a captain without a letter" and we couldn't agree more.
The cellulite – His reckless style takes its toll in injuries. He's strong, but still only around 6'0 and 195 pounds. I'm almost that size after a big Christmas dinner. He's not really skilled enough to step up to a scoring line if the Habs run into a major injury crisis or another boogie-woogie flu.
The armpit hair – In his time with the Habs, Bégin has missed time with a strained neck, a bad knee, a broken foot, and most worrisome for a guy who relies on physical play, 27 games last year were lost to back spasms. Yikes.
In the VIP Room – For a waiver wire pick-up, Bégin is great value. He's the anti-Samsonov; always going flat out and willing to block shots, throw checks, and stir up trouble. He was the 2001 AHL playoff MVP and his absence from the lineup for 30 games last year may have been the difference between 8th and the golf course. You tell me if this team doesn't look different with Bégin playing demolition derby with opposing defencemen every fourth shift. Chez Parée bound? - In the driver's seat of a beat-up truck. If Bégin stays healthy, he's leading this team in board rattling hits, spontaneous ovations, and quotes.
Signature song – "Welcome to the Jungle". Like the G'NR classic, Bégin is a little frenetic, almost out of control at times, hits hard and is loved by all.
7 lap dances (out of 10) – I love Bégin, but he is what he is, a fourth-liner with a bunch of nagging injuries to overcome. The rating is based on a healthy Bégin teaming with Greek Lightning Tom Kostopolous and Maxime Lapierre to create the fourth line equivalent of a mosh pit.
The 4 AM Smoked Meat Sandwich - Seems like we agree:
Panger: Although I love the way he plays, you could see his body was breaking down last year. Plus, there are a bunch of prospects who play a similar game, so he may not even last the season in Montreal – although there is a list of French-Canadien players (ok, two defencemen) who should go first.
HF29: A French-Canadian who plays like he was trained in the dub not the Q. As I said re Janne Lahti, Don Cherry is confused.
HF33: A couple of seasons ago, the visual on Bégin was a fierce, compact frame, head tucked in, foot to the pedal, all out thrust in every direction on the ice. He was relentless. No other player on this team has displayed more convincingly that effort overrides talent. Last season, he was different. Maybe injured, maybe assured of his place on the team and thus no longer compelled to push as hard as before. With the renewed hopes of a new season, with a rested body, he may find that spark that makes the most honest player on this team so special.